Six months ago Pamela Cowan wrote about iPods and policies. Whilst driving this afternoon I turned down the volume on my car radio (Question Time in Parliament) and I wondered how much I had reduced the volume. I could not tell as the radio simply has a scale of numbers.
Such a measurement is common. We have heard of “cranking the amp up to eleven” but what does eleven mean in terms of decibels and, in the context of this blog, the risk of noise-induced hearing loss?
This is also particularly relevant in the discussion about earphones. The safety warnings that relate to the potential long term damage are all expressed in exposures in decibels. Yet the volume controls are shown as numbers, lines or a digital bar. There is no mention of decibels.
I realise that damage can occur from exposure to certain decibel levels over time but would not it be easier for an individual to control their exposure if volume controls on MP3 players and other audio devices were also expressed in decibels?
In this way, a warning could be issued, for example
“Ensure that the volume of this device does not exceed XX decibels or permanent hear loss may occur”
The user can then look at their device and adjust the volume according to the decibel figure in the warning. We could have a safety warning be immediately connected to risk control device – the volume knob.
I would be interested in knowing whether there are any personal audio playing devices available that do express volume in decibels.
I think that such a connection would have strong secondary benefits in the understanding of industrial- and work-related noise induced hearing loss.